No jobs for the boys
Male school-leavers "are carrying the full weight of the economic crisis," according to a new study by the Flemish labour and training agency VDAB. The number of male graduates - from secondary school to university - looking for work increased by 14% between June 2008 and February 2009, where the total for girls increased by barely 1%.
With unemployment rising, young men are finding the going tough
The latest study by VDAB, which produces annual statistics on school-leavers and their efforts to find their first job, should have covered the period June 2007 to June 2008. But the jobs market has changed so rapidly and radically - with record business closures, the credit-crunch affecting debt and investment, falling orders and massive job losses - the new study extends its reach to February of this year.
In June 2008, the number of school-leavers who were still without work a year after leaving full-time education stood at 9.8%, or 7,600 people. By February, that rate went up to 11.2%; most of the increase was made up of young men with lower educational qualifications.
Choice of study still makes the biggest difference in finding a job. As Table 1 shows, while the level of education is important, some differences are ironed out by the choice of field. So, while there is a significant difference between professional and art studies at second grade secondary level, by the third grade, the situation is more than reversed. And those leaving after professional second grade are almost twice as bad off as those leaving after general humanities second grade.
The differences continue into tertiary education. Those leaving with a bachelor's in an education-related discipline are more than twice as likely to be out of work a year after graduation compared to those studying industrial science or technology. And at master's level, social science graduates are much more likely to have trouble finding a job than those graduating in business, technology and engineering.
Location also plays a role. Male unemployment is historically low in West Flanders. In Flemish Brabant, there's a growing demand for well-educated applicants, which works in women's favour (about six in 10 of those leaving education with higher qualifications is a woman). The report suggests that school-leavers from other provinces become more mobile in order to take advantage of these local opportunities.
Some 2% of all school-leavers are unemployed after a year and have not been able to find work of any kind. They have "completely missed the connection with the jobs market," the study says. "These young people merit special attention before they risk disappearing into long-term unemployment."
Y can do
Despite the numbers, graduates optimistic
Among the best-educated, optimism about finding a job is high, despite the economic crisis, according to research from the Vlerick Leuven/Gent Management School. Vlerick has been studying the job expectations of the so-called Generation Y students for the last six years.
The study covered 1,100 students in tertiary education, mainly at master's level. Nearly half were studying economic sciences (43%), with others in law, management, behavioural science and communications.
Despite reports of bankruptcies, cuts and job losses, young people remain "relatively optimistic" about their chances of finding a job in their chosen sector. Those expectations may be unrealistic, says Sara De Hauw, a research associate at Vlerick, when compared with past data on what graduates thought their chances were, and how that changed after two or three years in the job market.
"It seems to be typical of the generation, rather than related to the crisis or the economic environment," De Hauw explains. "They're aware there are difficulties but think they are well enough prepared to meet the challenges. They have quite a high level of self-esteem, actually. But the question of course is, will they find a job and will their high self-esteem perhaps help?"
Some of the main points revealed by the Vlerick study:
• 15% already have a contract before graduating, while 60% are actively looking for work
• Consultancy is the most popular sector for graduates (39.3%), followed by banking and insurance (35.4%) and telecommunications (26.7%). (But the study features a sample of students in a restricted number of disciplines.)
• Social network sites, popular with young people for other reasons, come far down the list as job-seeking resources, long after company and job websites, job fairs and help wanted ads
• 87% said job success was their own responsibility, but only 50% had an updated CV or was involved in student jobs and activities that would enhance their prospects
• Balance between work and private life was top of the wish list, followed by autonomy. Job security has slipped down the poll since 2004
• Most expect a net monthly salary of €1,500 on starting, rising to €2,000 after five years for women, and €2,500 for men, on their own estimate.
• Loyalty is a thing of the past. More than half see a job as a stepping stone and intend to stay no longer than three years before moving on.